- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2009

UPDATED:

The Senate was down to one vacancy Tuesday as Democrat Kirsten Gillibrand was sworn on the Senate floor to take the seat vacated by new Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. administered the oath to Mrs. Gillibrand as President Obama was meeting with congressional Republicans on Capitol Hill to lobby for his economic stimulus plan.

Mrs. Gillibrand, a second-term congressman from upstate New York, was selected by New York Gov. David Paterson last week over a number of better-known candidates, including presidential daughter Caroline Kennedy and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, bearers of two of the most famous names in Democratic politics. At 42, Mrs. Gillibrand is the youngest senator in the chamber and the 17th woman in the chamber.

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With her swearing-in, the only vacant seat remaining is in Minnesota, where incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democratic challenger Al Franken are engaged in a drawn-out recount battle following the Nov. 4 election. Democrats currently hold a 58-41 majority.

Mrs. Gillibrand, a conservative Democrat who has opposed gun control laws, could face a tough re-election fight in 2010. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, New York Democrat, is considering a primary challenge and Republican Rep. Peter King is planning to run for Senate as well.

And New York Republicans say they have a strong shot in the special election to fill Mrs. Gillibrand’s House seat in a largely rural district on the outskirts of Albany, where the party has a sizable registration advantage over Democrats.